U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama today introduced a bipartisan bill to allow rural hospitals to access relief funds through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the PPP to provide relief to small business owners with fewer than 500 employees. Many small hospitals operate as part of a larger health system that exceeds the 500-employee limit under the Small Business Association’s rules, making these smaller hospitals ineligible for PPP. This legislation would waive the SBA rule for non-profit critical access hospitals and hospitals that serve rural areas so that they are eligible for PPP loans.
“We need to do everything we can to make sure that Alabamians can access the health care they need no matter where they live,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “Many of our rural hospitals were struggling even before this pandemic, and are now being stretched to a breaking point by the spread of COVID-19. It’s crucial that they can access the support they need to continue to provide care to their communities, and PPP funds will be another tool in the toolbox to help them stay afloat.”
In addition to dealing with increased costs for staff, personal protective equipment, and other safety measures as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, many hospitals and medical facilities have lost significant revenue because of reductions in elective procedures. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alabama Hospital Association had estimated that 88-percent of Alabama hospitals were operating in the red. Many rural hospitals in Alabama were already operating on thin margins and the pandemic has placed them under even greater financial stress.
Expanding access to quality, affordable health care has been one of Senator Jones’ top priorities during his time in the Senate. He has introduced legislation to make it easier for states like Alabama to expand Medicaid, which would provide access to health care for over 300,000 Alabamians and would provide much-needed financial support for struggling hospitals across the state. He successfully advocated for and secured a change in the Medicare wage index system to help Alabama hospitals get reimbursed more fairly for the services they provide. Among other things, Senator Jones has also introduced legislation to reduce maternal mortality and racial disparities in health care.
The legislation is also sponsored by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).